So we’re observing World Disability Day today. This is the day, when we talk about people with all kinds of disabilities, their current state, their development, what the society is doing for them and all of that. Yes, this the day when almost everybody talks about them and then, that’s it.
What next? What really happens to the state of the disabled and who takes the initiative to do something about it?
The government moves on, you move on, and so do they.
They move on, because that’s what they’ve been doing all their life. They go to a public place, they struggle to access it, it’s tough for them, but they move on. They go for a job interview, they’re rejected because they’re disabled, they take it with a pinch of salt and move on. The government announces inclusive policies, they smile, they move on. The policies are yet on paper, they smile again and move on. You look at them, show some sympathy and they move on.
So, the question is, is World Disability Day, just another international day that we have adopted and is there anything at all that we genuinely acknowledge? The answer to the latter half, unfortunately, is a shameful one.
Had we been a country that acknowledged disability, then the three percent reservation at educational institutions would have made more sense – because unlike the current state, the disabled would then have access to schools and colleges. The society would have been more inclusive and sensitive towards the disabled. Had we been a country acknowledging disabled persons, then, my dear friend, the disabled wouldn’t have been excluded from the national census, even decades after independence. Had we been a country acknowledging disability, then, You, wouldn’t have given a sympathetic look to a disabled person you met on the street.
If you’ve ever been abroad and to a country like the United States of America, you’ll realize that the life the disabled live over there is entirely different from the ones in India. Every structure is accessible, the society is inclusive and the disabled lead a dignified life. It won’t be wrong to say, that all this is only because as a nation, they are considerate towards the needs and sentiments of the disabled. Each and every person running the government, each and every person on the street, is considerate towards the disabled. Everybody right from the shopkeeper to the bus driver to the professor to the human resource professional to the President himself is considerate towards the disabled.
It’s going to take a lot of time for the government to change its ways of functioning and for things to be in place. But in the meanwhile, there is something that you can do at a personal level. The next time you see a disabled person on the street, you could give a smile instead of the usual sympathetic look. The next time you want to be a friend to someone who is disabled, you could refrain from being overtly nice, because that is not what they look for. If you’re looking at setting up your own shop, clinic or school, the least you could do is to ensure that your set up is accessible.
As clichéd as it may sound, if change is what you desire, then you need to be the change you want to see. And by change, nobody wants you to get on the roads and participate in a candle march or protest against the government. The easiest way to make a difference is to change the way you look at the disabled. The society at large can change, if only You – who is a part of the society, choose to change! And you never know, a day might come, when the government too, might learn something from you!
Give Some Thought, Give Some Love, Give Some Space